Mass of Bodies, Body as a Mass: The Other of the Other in Jean-Luc Nancy

In: Research in Phenomenology
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  • 1 Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic

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Abstract

This paper aims to explore and expand Jean-Luc Nancy’s notion of the body as a mass as he drafted it in his “On the Soul” lecture. He conceptualizes the soul as the (however minimal) reflection of the fact that we have (or we are) a body, thus the conception of the body as a mass may offer possibilities to think the body outside or prior to this reflection. In the article, I expand on three types of bodies. The first of these possibilities is an abstracted body Nancy ascribed to St. Augustine, a body which has been criticized by feminist scholars like Judith Butler. The second one is a hypothetical pre-body proposed by the object-oriented philosopher Graham Harman that may have existed before the actual body emerges. The last one is the disintegrated rotting body in two different contexts: European baroque imagery and asubha kammaṭṭhāna, a Thai meditational practice. All three types of bodies-as-a-mass are legitimate conceptualizations of what Nancy indicates. However, the mass quality is the very nonconceptuality, which is therefore the ultimate outcome that I had to reach.

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